Dr. Stella Nyanzi is Brittle Paper’s Writer-Activist of the Year for her fearless and courageous stance against power. She is a Ugandan academic and gender and queer rights activist.
Nyanzi was sentenced to 18 months in prison after being charged with harassing Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni on the internet. Museveni, who has been described as authoritarian, has been in power for the last 35 years. During her incarceration at Luzira Women’s Prison in Kampala, Nyanzi endured stretches in solitary confinement and physical abuse by guards. During this horrifying experience, Nyanzi wrote and published a poetry collection titled No Roses from My Mouth.
No Roses from My Mouth, a collection of 159 poems, makes Nyanzi the first Ugandan writer to write and publish a poetry collection while still incarcerated. The collection signals Nyanzi’s use of “radical rudeness,” a form of activism that involves speaking irreverently to and of authoritarian power. The poems explore a variety of subject matters related to feminist resistance and the struggle for equality in Uganda. They channel Nyanzi’s revolutionary vision and should be read, as the publisher of the collection remarks, “not only for their beauty and the power of the poet’s vision, but also for the bravery and radical intent of their writing and publishing.”
On January 30, 2021 Nyanzi was sent into exile, venturing into Nairobi, Kenya by bus to seek asylum on account of political persecution. Nyanzi has paid dearly in personal and professional costs for her activism, but she continues to be unyielding in speaking truth to power. Earlier this year she shared on Twitter that though in exile, she “can still write as [her] contribution to the fight for freedom and liberation in Uganda!”
Nyanzi is a beacon in the face of oppressive powers, and we want to celebrate and honor her for having the courage to stand for what’s right.
Thank you Dr. Stella Nyanzi!